The term malware can be used to describe a wide array of computer infections. Because it is a catchall term, it can often times obscure the cause and effect of a given infection, which can lead to confusion even after an infection has been remediated. This article will describe common types of malware and what they're aiming to achieve.
Spyware is a type of malware designed to monitor a user's habits across different applications and websites. Those habits are then turned into hard data that is then sold to the highest bidder to use in their marketing efforts and beyond. It's important to understand that spyware is typically silent to the end user, meaning that you probably won't have any direct evidence of it being installed and operating. A common symptom of spyware is just a general slowdown of your Web browser or your device as a whole.
This type of malware takes aim at disabling a user from being able to do anything with their computer. Ransomware accomplishes its goal by blocking access to critical system and/or personal files by encrypting them, which requires a decryption key that must be purchased from the creator of the ransomware. Often times, if the key is not purchased in a set amount of time, the user's personal files are permanently deleted.
Unlike other forms of malware, this type of infection has to make itself known in order to have the desired effect. Unfortunately, the installation typically goes unnoticed, so detection won't happen until the user's files are already encrypted and inaccessible. Likewise, this is one type of malware that once installed, is very difficult to remove without paying for the key. Because of that, it's important to have a proactive anti-malware solution in place, like Identity Guard Device Secure.
We've all seen a few unwanted ads while surfing the Web, right? Well, sometimes we find ourselves completely overwhelmed by popups and other advertising schemes that are the direct result of a type of malware called adware. While typically considered a general nuisance rather than a real hazard to your device, adware can sometimes offer some ads that can lead to a real problem for you.
Adware developers usually make money by advertising sketchy products that make vague and, quite frankly, pretty unbelievable promises. For examples, think about the SPAM you've seen in your email account for all these years. But, this is not always the case. Sometimes adware will offer up an ad that informs a user that their device has been hacked and they need to "click here" or call a specific phone number in order to fix the problem. Don't do it! These are scams designed to capture as much personal information about you (including your credit card number, should offer it!) and then sell it on the black market.
If you're not sure about an ad you're looking at, especially as they pertain to your device apparently being infected, it's best to not click it and instead close it and run a scan using the Identity Guard Device Secure app.
Additionally, as a more preventative step, you may want to consider installing an ad blocker like uBlock Origin. In addition to blocking potentially harmful ads, you'll also block most other unwanted ads from your browsing experience.
A virus could technically be any one of the aforementioned types of malware, but it has the additional element of finding its way from one user's device to as many others as possible (akin to how a virus spreads from one living thing to many). Often times this happens by looking in a user's address book, so you may find that a friend has received a weird email, text or other message from you that you didn't send. If that happens, it's time to change passwords and run a scan using the Identity Guard Device Secure app!